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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on May 12, 2014

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Ashonti T. Davis, Nashville, Tennessee, and Susanna M. Moldoveanu, Memphis, for the appellant, Marceia Turner-Bonin.

Attorneys 2:

Stanley A. Kweller and Margaret Lane Johnson, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Bruce Wayne Turner.

Judge(s): STAFFORD

This is a conservatorship modification case. Appellant/Mother sought modification of the trial court’s previous order, naming Appellee/Father as the conservator over the parties’ mentally-disabled, adult son, and mandating that Mother’s visitation with the Ward be supervised. Because Mother had made numerous, unfounded allegations of sexual abuse against the Ward by his older brother, the trial court enjoined Mother from making any future allegations of sexual abuse against the Ward by his older brother, and further enjoined her from discussing, with the Ward, any purported sexual abuse by his older brother. Although the trial court modified its previous order to grant Mother four additional hours of visitation per month, it ordered that her visitation would continue to be supervised. The court further modified the conservatorship by holding that Father, at his discretion, would be allowed to tape record any telephone conversations between the Ward and Mother. On appeal, Mother contends that the injunction constitutes an unconstitutional prior restraint on her free speech. We adopt the “modern rule,” holding that defamatory speech may be enjoined after a determination that the speech is, in fact, false, and upon the condition that the injunction be narrowly tailored to limit the prohibited speech to that which has been determined to be false. We conclude that the injunction in this case satisfies both of these criteria such that it does not constitute a prior restraint on Mother’s free speech. Mother also appeals the trial court’s order concerning the amount of visitation, the fact that the visitation is to be supervised, and recording of her telephone conversations with the Ward. We conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing Mother eight hours of visitation per month. Furthermore, because of Mother’s behavior during the pendency of this litigation, we further conclude that the imposition of supervised visitation and the recording of her telephone conversation serve two functions. First, these requirements preserve the Ward’s best interest by providing safeguards against future negative impacts from Mother’s actions. Second, because Mother has shown a propensity to disregard the orders of the court, the requirements ensure that the court’s orders will be followed. Because the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s findings, and there is no abuse of the trial court’s discretion, we affirm and remand.